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Engaging communities

HUBweek 2017: Tour of the Design Biennial Boston

HUBweek is a weeklong celebration of the innovation and collaboration that permeates the city of Boston and surrounding areas. Established by founding partners The Boston Globe, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Massachusetts General Hospital, HUBweek offers events that explore and examine leadership, technology, invention, creativity, governance, and more.

This year, the Boston Society of Architects/AIA (BSA) and the BSA Foundation organized a design tour to highlight processes of architectural innovation and production and their impacts on the city’s built environment. A group of a dozen design lovers met on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway (Greenway) the morning of Wednesday, October 11 to learn more about the 2017 Design Biennial Boston (Biennial).

Lucas Cowan, public art curator of the Greenway, introduced the organization's public art program as a whole. Lucas was pleased to be able to support the Biennial and its activation of the Greenway, and was especially glad that Ways of Wood inhabits a site that hasn't seen as much love or interest as other Greenway spots.

Mark Pasnik AIA, principal at over,under and professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology, spoke as one of the curators of the Biennial. Mark gave a brief overview of the Biennial's history and its origins as an event to showcase the work and innovative thinking of emerging designers from New England. The exhibition is an opportunity not just for designers to experiment and display their work, but also for everyday Greenway users and out-of-town visitors to more closely consider the impact that design has on them—and vice versa.

Following Mark’s introduction, Daniel Ibañez, co-founder and principal at Margen-Lab and Doctor of Design candidate and teaching fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, spoke about his piece, Ways of Wood. Daniel made the case for timber as a rich architectural material—each tree a specific species, with its own qualities and place of origin.

In Ways of Wood, local logs move from the rough and rustic to the refined. James Negri, a designer at YouthBuild Boston and part of the project team, described the combination of new and old fabrication and construction techniques that made the piece possible. The team worked primarily at Autodesk BUILD Space, familiarizing themselves with software to produce Computer Numerical Control (CNC)-fabricated ripples and tufted upholstery patterns to welcome passersby to engage with the piece as a seating amenity as well as art. Still, low-tech methods of assembly and installation were required—even the firefighters based in the Boston Fire Department across the street lent some muscle and elbow grease.

Ways of Wood will remain on the Greenway through May 2018, though this year's Biennial closed October 12, 2017. HUBweek 2017 continues through Sunday, October 15, 2017, with programming across the Boston area, and a central festival space, The HUB, located on City Hall Plaza. 

Header image: Ways of Wood. Photo credit: Caitlin Hart.


To learn more about how the BSA Foundation is making an impact in communities, please come to BSA Space for a one hour “tour” of BSA Foundation programs. On the tour, board members and volunteers will tell stories about how Foundation programs, and the power of design, are positively changing the lives of real people. Meet the BSA Foundation meetings are held monthly. Events are free, but seats are limited. Check for upcoming dates and to reserve your seat.